The most competitive part of this tour came in New Zealand before the players left. A lower-key rerun of the row in Britain about the morality of touring Zimbabwe while the country remained in the grip of Robert Mugabe's regime ended the same way - with the New Zealand government refusing actually to ban the tour, and the ICC refusing to accept any other excuse for the team not turning up.
So Stephen Fleming led his third tour of Zimbabwe - a very different one from his first, in 1997-98, when Zimbabwe had been the stronger side. Eight years on, this seemed unbelievable, following the premature retirement of numerous top players and the rebellion in 2004 by most of those who remained. Some rebels had been persuaded to return, but, by the tour's end, there were further rumblings of mutiny.
In any case, the side was by no means back to full strength: Grant Flower, Sean Ervine and Ray Price were in England, playing county cricket. Three non-rebel pace bowlers - Douglas Hondo, Tinashe Panyangara and Edward Rainsford - were injured, while Andy Blignaut, who like Heath Streak had made peace with Zimbabwe Cricket, was not fit for the Tests. Apart from Streak and Blignaut, former rebels Stuart Carlisle, Craig Wishart and debutant Neil Ferreira were available; so was Blessing Mahwire, who had been missing for 15 months because of a dubious bowling action. But the team's lack of class, morale and determination made three of Zimbabwe's four matches against New Zealand - Test and limited-overs - virtual walkovers.
The two Tests added together lasted five days of a possible ten. Zimbabwe were unexpectedly competitive in the field for the first two and a half hours of the series, but after that it was one-way traffic. The coach Phil Simmons was made the scapegoat and clumsily replaced by the Zimbabwean Kevin Curran before the triangular tournament that followed.
The star of the tour was pace bowler Shane Bond. After missing more than two years' international cricket through injury, he regained his best form with a vengeance, taking 13 Test wickets at 9.23 apiece. Significantly, Bond was rested for New Zealand's only defeat, by India in a one-day triangular game, as was Daniel Vettori, who added to his bowling a claim to be an allrounder - but his 82-ball century, New Zealand's fastest in Test cricket, was tainted by the quality of the opposition. Nathan Astle, less flamboyant than usual but very determined, led the batting, but most of his colleagues enjoyed themselves on plumb pitches against friendly bowling. All-rounder Scott Styris did more valuable work than his figures show.
The return tour of New Zealand never happened. The government there said it would not issue visas to the Zimbabweans.
Match reports for
Tour match: Zimbabwe Board XI v New Zealanders at Bulawayo, Aug 22, 2005